What does Dubai offer as a location for SKA Group's headquarters?
First and foremost, Dubai is a great place from which to do business. The banking system and the free zone system are unique and make it very convenient for us to operate our business. The main attraction for us here in Dubai is that, geographically, we are at the center of all our regional operations. We can support our businesses in Iraq, Afghanistan, the UAE, and Africa. Most international companies are located here, meaning many of the people we deal with are also in Dubai. It is a good networking place. Dubai is a fast-growing location. It is safe and secure, and the financial system here is easy to work with. It makes it very attractive to do business. We see a lot of potential in the UAE as well, not only in the other countries we are investing in.
What makes SKA so keen on working in challenging environments such as Iraq and Afghanistan?
We operate in high-risk environments because we feel that a lot of those environments have the biggest opportunities. In places like Iraq, there are huge opportunities, although the risks are very high. Not every company can work in these kinds of places, but we developed our niche by successfully working in difficult environments since 2005. We can't change anything in politics, but I believe that all the projects we are involved with help to develop the countries that we operate. SKA aims to work as a good corporate citizen, helping to develop business, people and communities, and we are also focused on a lot of charity work and social welfare programs. All of this is positive.
How has the partnership with the Iraqi government helped in developing SKA in its overall operations?
Over the last decade, we have developed a very positive working relationship with the Ministry of Oil in Iraq. We have developed an excellent relationship in quality control and in doing our business professionally. More recently, we now have supply contracts with the Ministry of Electricity to supply all the power stations with imported gas oil. We are developing a great track record of being able to get the job done. This has been the key to our success in Iraq—developing good relationships with the government of Iraq and its different ministries. Everything in the Middle East is dependent on good relationships; therefore, you have to spend the time on the ground understanding the problems and working with the people if you want to achieve success.
What is your strategy to manage risk in your operations?
We have a very good saying; knowledge dispels fear. I believe that in order to get the right knowledge and understand the problems, you have to be on the ground. You cannot run a business in Somalia or Iraq or Afghanistan sitting in your office in Dubai. That is why I have to travel all the time; I have to be there to understand what the problems are and manage the risk. I have to make decisions that will affect all of my staff and potentially, I'll need to protect them as well. We take risks, but we don't take unnecessary risks. We don't put our people unnecessarily in harm's way. We are proud of the fact that we have a good safety record.